Anarchist Golfing Association trashes

grass-seed research facility

By AVIVA L. BRANDT

Associated Press Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ They call themselves the Anarchist Golfing Association. Their stated mission: To make life miserable for companies that develop genetically engineered grass for a sport they say is solely "the pleasure of the rich."

These self-styled anarchists sneaked into a grass-seed research facility in a Portland suburb Sunday night. They stomped on experimental grass plots, destroying a decades' worth of work. They left behind golf balls embossed with the international anarchists' symbol _ the letter "A" in a circle _ and spraypainted slogans like "Nature Bites Back" on a plastic greenhouse wall.

They sent an e-mail to the company owner boasting about the attack.

"Last night, the Anarchist Golfing Association held its first-ever nocturnal golfing tournament at Pure-Seed Testing research facilities," the e-mail reads.

"In just under 16 strokes, the AGA notched up a few birdies and a hole-in-one as we tore up large areas of PST's profit-driven experiments with biodiversity," said the e-mail.

Pure-Seed Testing Inc. is a division of Turf-Seed Inc., based in Canby, 20 miles south of Portland.

The company's research facilities' suffered from $300,000 and $500,000 in damage from the vandalism. The company was insured only on its seeds and stock, not the research plants, said owner Bill Rose.

"They pulled and threw and stomped and mixed labels and threw away labels and did everything they could to destroy things," Rose said Tuesday during a telephone interview from his office in Canby.

They even painted the fuse box black so workers would be unable to read the labels, he said.

"They certainly knew what to do to do the most damage," Rose said.

Biotech saboteurs have struck experimental trees and food crops more than 20 times in North America since last July, mostly in California, and burned the landmark Agriculture Hall at Michigan State University.

They have set back research in an effort to draw attention to genetic engineering, a science they say is potentially harmful to the planet.

Ironically, Rose said, the work destroyed at Pure-Seed was done using centuries' old techniques of plant breeding, not genetic engineering.

"That's natural breeding," Rose said. "They actually destroyed what they purport to be supporting."

The vandals said they targeted Pure-Seed because the company was experimenting with a grass used on putting greens _ creeping bentgrass _ that is resistant to the herbicide Glufosinate.

In their e-mail, the anarchists said "these crops are grown for profit and the pleasure of the rich and have no social value."

They said while the golf trade journals claim that "golf courses provide suitable habitat for wildlife," the anarchists see them as "a destroyer of all things wild."

The saboteurs probably used computer research to target Pure-Seed, Rose said. The company's federal permit for the creeping bentgrass experiment can be found on the Internet, he said.

Since Rose had the anarchists' e-mail address, he decided to answer them with his own e-mail. He told them his company is a family-owned operation dedicated to "improving grass varieties for turf, forage, erosion control and betterment of the world."

Rose informed them his company is not involved in genetically engineering grasses, but is only doing research "to properly assess the dangers and precautionary measures that must take place" before any genetically modified grasses are produced in the Willamette Valley.

Rose invited the saboteurs to a meeting so he could "set the record straight on what is good and what is bad, and of course, we will be attempting to direct your great energies in a constructive manner."

The saboteurs did not immediately reply to Rose's e-mail, nor to one Tuesday from The Associated Press.

The communique from the anarchists closed with what could be interpreted as a promise of more to come: "Golf season is upon us ... This is a call to FARMS!"

And that, Rose said, is his fear _ that the vandals will come back. The company is installing surveillance cameras and has hired a night watchman. And Rose said he's considering putting in a barbed-wire fence.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Department had no leads Tuesday into the Sunday night incident and had turned over details about it to the FBI, said spokeswoman Angela Blanchard. FBI spokesman Gordon Compton said he could not comment, but a team of FBI investigators was on the scene Tuesday.

Oregon produces 60 percent to 65 percent of the world's supply of temperate climate grasses, worth an estimated $450 million a year, said Dave Nelson, executive secretary of the Oregon Seed Council.

"The whole industry is very upset about people expressing their political philosophy by performing acts of terrorism," Nelson said.